In late February 2022, our client, then age 23, was stopped just outside the Sephora store at the Westfield Century City Mall after walking past the check-out area with seventeen items she had not paid for worth $851.91, with tax included.
The items included one Lilly Lashes product, three Amika products, one La Mer item, seven Fenty products, one Sephora Collection product, three Benefit products and one Beauty Blender product. Loss prevention wrote in its report that they observed our client drop these items into a yellow bag she was carrying with her in the store. She then went to the cash register and paid for one item while leaving the aforementioned items in her bag.
The client then tried to walk out of the store and did so, but loss prevention stopped her five feet outside the exit area.
When loss prevention asked our client for her identification, she said she did not have any identification and that she was nineteen years old.
Loss prevention believed our client was lying about not having any identification and her age, so they called the Los Angeles Police Department, who came to the store and took a report before citing our client out, with a signed promise from her to appear in the Airport Courthouse exactly four months later. When the police arrived, our client found her identification and gave it to the police.
The client called our office a few days after the arrest and described what had happened. The client had no prior criminal history and was, she explained, a successful businesswoman. The client asked how her case would be handled and if she would go to jail.
Greg assured her she very likely would not go to jail and then explained how the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office have historically handled such cases. Greg explained a few recent cases, coincidentally involving shoplifting at the same Sephora in the Westfield Century City mall.
Greg explained the Neighborhood Justice Program (NJP) that more than one of Greg’s prior clients had been lucky enough to be referred through instead of having a case filed. Greg contrasted the facts of those cases, which involved smaller amounts being stolen, with the client’s case.
Greg further explained that there was a new program for “judicial diversion” at Penal Code § 1001.94 that allowed a judge to suspend proceedings and then allow a criminal defendant in a misdemeanor case, as this would be, to perform certain requirements to earn a dismissal.
Greg also explained that the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office often offered a form of formal diversion at the Airport Courthouse, but that such a resolution required the client to enter a “no contest” or “guilty” plea, whereas judicial diversion did not require this.
Greg then explained why not entering such a plea was preferable.
Greg suggested that the client enroll in and take an online shoplifting prevention program to help Greg be able to negotiate easy terms for the client in judicial diversion and/or persuade the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office to refer the matter to the NJP. Greg made a few suggestions for providers of such a course, such as Third Millennium, or if that is not available, through Logan Social Services, Tom Wilson Counseling Services or the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention.
Greg also explained how an attorney for Sephora may mail her a demand for payment of loss prevention fees. Greg described such a letter as implying no criminal case would be filed against her if the client paid a fine of up to $500, but pointed out that this suggestion in the letter only applied to a civil case and not the criminal case. Greg told the client not to pay such a demand, but to keep the letter in case Greg could use payment of the demand to her advantage in the criminal case only after the prosecutor agrees to this.
The client then retained Greg Hill & Associates to defend her in this case.
Greg then wrote the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, suggesting this case be referred to the Neighborhood Justice Program and enclosed the client’s proof of completion of the online shoplifting prevention program.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office did not respond to our letter requesting a referral of the case to the NJP, so Greg appeared on the client’s behalf at the arraignment.
The Los Angeles City Attorney at the arraignment made a formal diversion offer of having our client on formal diversion for a year and be required to perform 80 hours of community service for a dismissal.
Greg thanked the City Attorney for this offer, but requested judicial diversion from the judge, who granted this with a six month period of diversion and just 40 hours of community service. In setting such terms, the judge wanted to know a bit about the client personally and the prosecutor recited the facts of the case, which were not too good for our client.
Nonetheless, the judge offered terms significantly better than those from the City Attorney.
The case would be dismissed in six months if the client performs the 40 hours of community service, which our client promised to perform ASAP.